Rundown (10/01/2023) How Are ‘Real’ Video Games Profitable?

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  • Reading time:54 mins read
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This Week’s Topics:

  • Natalie asks how games are supposed to make money for prices so low
  • A Super Smash swap comic
  • The end of a Platinum era
  • A sequel to one of Natalie’s favorite exploration-driven action platformers
  • Sony’s latest mega-hack
  • Sony’s status quo non-shake-up
  • Epic spits out Bandcamp like a stale pretzel
  • Ownership or possession – the real media debate

Rundown Preamble Ramble:
How Are Real Video Games Profitable?

After talking about the Unity runtime fees fiasco last week, I got to thinking about the matter of video game budgets. How games are funded, how much they actually cost to produce, and how much they need to make to be considered a success. This is an issue that has been bugging me for years, and I remember having my mind blown when I found an old chart breaking down where the money of a $60 retail game went back in… 2013? Because it showed that third party publishers only netted $27, or 45%, of the asking price, as profit. 

Nowadays however, game sales are largely digital, and the revenue share is far more beneficial to the publishers. 70% for them and 30% for the storefront operators. A far better rate, though not the most justified given the state and lack of curation across gaming storefronts. Especially the Switch eShop. However, this standardized rate makes it easy to understand the revenue end of things for digital titles. It’s the sales price times the number of units sold times 70%. …Or at least I wish it were that easy.

Video games are one of the most frequently discounted pieces of media, and are home to some absolutely massive price cuts. Over the span of five years, the same game can go from costing $60 to a mere $5. And even on launch, a lot of digital only titles see an introductory discount of over 10% to incentivize day one buyers, or the PC version of certain games can be bought from key resellers for a reduced price.

But that is before getting into the fact that gaming is international, and the selling price of any given game differs based on the region, and based on how the publisher chooses to set the price. Let’s have a look at, say, Mega Man X DiVE Offline, where we can see the converted price for a game costing $29.99 USD ranges between $23.02 to $35.17. While the upcoming Star Ocean: The Second Story R costs $49.99 USD, but regional pricing ranges from $18.36 to $58.34.

So, simply figuring out how much money a game makes is kept under wraps, and the only reliable sources are the publishers themselves. Sure, there are NPD figures for the US, UK sales charts for the UK, and the Famitsu sales figures for Japan. But those only cover physical sales, are limited to a specific region, and Famitsu is the only one that gives a proper number for each game..

So, figuring out the revenue of video games is very hard, and requires some form of extrapolation and comparison to discern the right data. But what about the costs of video games? How much does it cost developers to make them? Well, that’s where things get complicated.

If one is running a traditional video game studio, in an office, then the expenses will be driven by a few relatively common factors. 

  • Rent and utilities, along with the costs of generally maintaining the office. 
  • Business overhead, including licenses, taxes, and accounting/legal services. 
  • Hardware and software, by which I mean computers, accessories, dev kits, software suites, email providers, and so forth. 
  • Contractor and outside service fees, as most games require people outside of the core team to make various assets. 
  • Publishing expenses, including paying for compliance, getting an age rating. 
  • Marketing and advertising expenses, because more people will buy a game if they hear about it. 
  • And last but not least, payroll! Which would need to be an absolute minimum of $30,000 per person per year! Otherwise, you’re a fucker.

…How the hell do you estimate these expenses into something workable? Well, you would need to do some scenario planning, generate a spectrum, and come up with a quick rule of thumb to determine the general range of what the expenses of the game are. I’m not going to do that, as I would just wind up throwing random numbers around. But now that I have listed those expenses… I can see why so many indie devs just work from home and run a tight ship with as modest a lifestyle as possible. Because otherwise, it’s kind of impossible to make a living off of this. And even when a game is successful… I doubt the profit margins are as high as they might seem.

In fact, let me look at a recent successful example and try to do some basic math to estimate the revenue and expenses. …An example I chose without much thought, while I was writing this segment, and is not strictly the best example, but still a valuable one for analysis purposes.

Sea of Stars is a critically lauded throwback sprite-based 16-bit-console-style turn-based RPG that had a lot of hype leading up to its release. The title managed to sell over 250,000 units within the first week, at a launch price of $35. Assuming a 30% fee and rounding down a bit for regional pricing, that’s $6,000,000 in revenue. 

However, that was in addition to up-front payouts from Xbox and PlayStation for launching the game on Game Pass and PlayStation Plus. Payments that I’m assuming are well within the millions. I only have the leaked Xbox emails to go on to estimate these payout amounts, but let’s assume it didn’t receive $5 million from both Xbox and PlayStation. Let’s go with… $3 million each, for a total of $6 million, same as their estimated revenue for selling 250,000 copies. That sounds believable enough. Oh, and they made $1,628,126 in CAD from Kickstarter, which, converting to USD based on 2023 rates, brings things to just over $1,200,000. But this is Kickstarter, so I’m going to trim off $200,000 for fees and physical pledge rewards. 

So, we have a semi-reasonable guess of $13 million in revenue, but what about the expenses? Well, the developers, Sabotage Studio, are a proper studio in Quebec City, meaning they need to rent office space and supply employees with computers. Their staff size appears to be 23 developers. But there were also collaborators, an outside animation studio, and other things. So, how would I balance this out? …Honestly, this seems like something that would cost at least $2,000,000 a year. You might think that’s a lot, but I consider $87,000 to be a low number for the annual payroll costs per employee, allocating rent, software, utilities, contractor fees, publishing fees, and other crap. Payroll alone should be at least $60,000 per person. 

Shit, I make more than that and I work basically 1,000 hours a year!

Sea of Stars was in development for 5 years. Meaning this estimated budget would be $10,000,000. Meaning the estimated profit on this project was only $3,000,000. …Which is a lot of money. As in, if someone has $3 million and invests it well, seeing an average 5% rate of return every year, then that’s $150,000 a year… forever. That is so much money that one’s children and their children’s children would never need to work… as long as the fund is properly managed. And that’s why being rich is SICK! You get paid to sit on your ass!

Yes, taxes will highly affect the income recognized… but I do not know anything about Canadian taxation.

Tangents aside… I want to just pause and emphasize this. Sea of Stars probably cost around $10 million to make. If it only sold 250,000— a very high number for an independent game to recognize, ever— then it would have lost about $3 million. The Kickstarter, which was a huge success, probably only accounted for a tenth of its actual budget. And I am confident in saying that, without the payouts from Xbox and PlayStation, this game would currently be in the red by a matter of millions. That, that right there, is a demonstration of just how expensive it is to make it in the games industry, and how even massive successes really aren’t that huge.

Like, I know I talked about the power of $3 million for an individual, but based on the prior cost estimation… that’s only enough to keep the lights on for another 18 months. …Which is enough time to make a game.

…Oh wait, Sea of Stars also received funding from Kowloon Nights? Kowloon Nights is an investor group who gives studios like Sabotage extra cash to support a game’s development. However, this comes in exchange with a revenue share program, so it is possible that Kowloon has already made back their investment, so every new sale is just extra cash in Kowloon’s pockets. Meaning I was too generous with my revenue figure. What is their revenue share program? I dunno! I would need to go to Kowloon and hack their servers.

…What was my point again? Right. Making money in games is really freaking hard, because labor is expensive and the revenue per unit is pretty low.

Truly, it’s no wonder why so many games take the free-to-play whale-assasinator approach. Because you could either make a good game over the span of 5 years and make less than $15 million at launch, or you could make a good gacha game and garner $50 million in revenue after 70 days. From the worker’s perspective, this doesn’t matter. But from the executive/publisher’s perspective, this is just a matter of capitalist-branded common sense.

Also, math like this is the reason why I am actually in favor of games costing more at launch, and why I think the 30% industry standard cut should be abolished and replaced with something reasonable. Like a 20% cut.

Sure, it’s pretty scummy when a AAA game costs $70, comes out buggy as a termite nest, and also a $30 season pass that only offers the vaguest of promises. But I don’t hear anybody complaining about indie games charging over $30. I mean, not nowadays. When games like 2014’s Transistor had the swollen hairy gonads to charge an egregious… $20, you bet there was some mild pushback.

TSF Showcase #2023-30
sWitch Time by
TSFSingularity & MassivePinkZombie

Akumako: “Ah shit, Nat-Nat’s got three preambles to go on before she gets to the tots and tendies of this Mighty Kids Meal…”

TSFSingularity is a group that, conceptually, I adore, as it is fully dedicated to the production of original high-quality commissions of TSF comics. In fact, I supported them for several months back in the group’s earlier years, but stopped due to two reasons. One, every creator I like has started pivoting to Patreon, and my average bill is up to a frightening $125/month, even after some culling. I’m not made of dough, I’m made of meat, and there’s only so many kidneys I can sell! Two, their works rarely impressed me. Not because the quality of the art was bad— they consistently commission good artists and there is a lot to appreciate on the visual end of things. But it’s harder to tell a story within a few pages, especially when several of them need to be devoted to sexual activities. I understand that’s what people generally want… but not me. I’m here for the plot, thanks.

Secondly, the World of Spirits single-player mode for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is lowkey one of the coolest concepts for a grand TF story of all time. The premise for World of Spirits is, quite simply, about spirits of characters manifesting the physical form of another, altering them with attributes based on the spirit. Sometimes it sees female spirits manifest male forms, sometimes it sees male spirits manifest female forms, and sometimes it involves a change in species. Plus, the mechanical use of spirits, of equipping spirits to a physical character, just opens up so many avenues for possession and body swaps that it overwhelms my mind.

It’s such a good premise that, five years later, I’m still bummed nobody ever really tried to do it properly. There were some comics and artists who joined in on the fun, but it was a fad and, despite the success of Ultimate, nobody really stuck with the idea for that long. Hell, back in 2019, I actually thought about doing this overly ambitious project involving a 52 part epic featuring 50 unique swap pairs. But it never got past the spreadsheet phase. I gave up and wrote Psycho Shatter 1985 instead. Honestly, stuff like this makes me wish I was thrown in jail, given a computer, and told to write 5 million words before I was set free. (Which I could probably do in three years unless I had to deal with prison bullshit). Because with all that time, I would wind up writing something as insane as that.

Akumako: “‘I wish I was in jail so I could write Smash Bros. porn without any real life distractions.'”

You know it, sistah. …What are we talking about again?

Akumako: “Witch Time, but with an ‘s’ in front of it!”

Aight, I can do that.

sWitch Time is a comic series that started as a one-off Smash Bros. body swap comic, but gradually grew more complicated and elaborate as sequels got strapped on. With the comic just recently seeing its fourth installment. Meaning we’re going to have a lot to go over, and most of it is pretty dang DOPE!

The first part begins on Mario Galaxy, where Pit and Bayonetta are going at it on the side of a house, like a pair of dirty dogs. Samus wanders onto the stage, sees this, and gets swapped by Pit, who is revealed to actually be Bayonetta. With the swaps instigated and characters set as Bayonetta(Samus), Pit(Bayonetta), and Samus(Pit), things shift inside the house and evolve into a forced threesome. With Samus(Pit) pinned to the bed, Pit(Bayonetta) forced to obey his assertive witch mistress, and Bayonetta(Samus) enjoying the perks of a human-dinosaur-parasite-jellyfish hybrid.

Akumako: “Samus is part Chozo, not dinosaur.”

The Chozo are dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are ancient birds, and Chozo are ancient space bird people. Ergo, Samus is part dinosaur!

Honestly part one is pretty whatever. It’s a somewhat convoluted three-way swap, has little story, and exists for a sex scene, more or less. Part two though? That’s where things get more going. 

First, with substantially improved artwork, in pretty much every way. Expressions are more pronounced and varied. The action of the comic is more intense and dynamic. And the overall level of detail is a lot higher. While the premise shifts to the tried and true fat ugly bastard X ojou-sama swap, with Wario and Palutena. (A TSFSingularity regular if my archive is any indication.)

Wario(Palutena) immediately starts stripping and fondling himself, Palutena(Wario) implores him to stop to no avail, and the contrast of despair and relentless ‘unladylike’ perversion clash… for four pages. After which Wario(Paluneta) gets teleported, leaving Palutena(Wario) to get intimate with her new body with the help of the sWitch Time Fuck Crew. …Offsecreen, because there are more ambitious things in store.

Namely Wario(Paluneta) discovering that Palutena is not the pure goddess of light she appears to be, as she has arranged a sexual event with inexperienced Japanese maiden, Lucina. (I know she’s not actually Japanese, but long, straight dark hair and a slender body means Japanese in manga language.) Wario(Palutena) goes hog wild, poppin’ his titties out, slurpin’ up some “delicious maiden juice,” and wishing he has a dick to gobble this all up. …Only for Captain Falcon to show up, wearing everything but his suit and undies, with his nine inches rock hard.

Wario(Paluneta) tries to skirt out of this… but Cap is too determined to show off his moves, and things evolve into another threesome, but one that I appreciate because of how much stuff it does. The scene changes positions regularly, while playing into the idea of Wario(Paluneta) not acting like his perverted self, but like the secretly perverted Palutena. It’s still a well-established trope, the refined lady who is secretly a slut, but in a body swap like this, it’s a fun little addition. And I’d be lying if I said Captain Falcon’s inclusion didn’t spice things up a lot. Dude’s confidence and bravado work really well in the context of a hentai comic, and he manages to pull off the faceless protagonist design just by wearing his usual mask. It’s like he was born to play this role!

Then things get to part three, where the high quality is maintained and the focus is improved. The comic begins with Bowser and Pyra fighting, the sWitch Time crew enter the stage to spice things up, and leave with the swapped duo knocked out. Bowser(Pyra) is the first to wake up, because girl bodies just recover faster, and decides to have some fun. Namely chaining up his former monster body for his sexual pleasure, while promising to let Pyra(Bowser) go if she plays along. 

This leads into two sex scenes that both follow what I call an FtMM (female-to-male-monster) dynamic. Where a swapped female character in the body of a male monster has basically three possible reactions they can have to their new form and seeing the male monster flaunt their body as a relentless pervert. They can A, be passively disgusted by the event, and choose to disengage from the situation, while remarking about how, despite the gross factor, the act of sex feels so good. B, use their newfound strength to just fuck the shit out of their body snatching partner, but not in a way the FtMM character finds pleasureable. In a way where she is trying to hurt her original body with her fat monster cock. Or C, lose herself in her newfound monstrous form, embracing her newfound lurid side, and becoming the perverted bestial monster she appears to be… at least for the duration of the sex session.

Akumako: “Natalie is no expert on monster fuckin’! If you have more things to add to the spectrum, put her on blast in the comments below. This is your one, and only, call to action!”

This comic provides us with the first two, featuring Pyra(Bowser) as someone begging for mercy as she is sexually pleasured/tormented by her true form. Before Bowser switches over to Mythra mode, and Mythra(Bowser) aims to get even with the help of her Giga Bowser Dick. This could be an instance where Bowser(Mythra) realizes that rape ain’t so great, but… he’s in the body of a busty blonde. So of course he’s straight loving it, even as he is stretched, pounded, and gouged with a spiked club and given a supa doopa Koopa creampie. …Thus leading to the ending, which takes a delightfully cartoonish bent. Perfectly appropriate way to end a story about a turtle dragon fucking a sword slave with honkin’ huge tits.

…But then there’s part four, and part four straight up doesn’t give an iota of a shit or a fuck, and is just pedophile gangbang bestiality bullshit

More specifically, this part centers around Bowser Jr., who I guess is technically 13, but… he still wears a bib, so he’s coded to be, like, 6-years-old? Who switches bodies with Smash Ultimate Zelda. A rendition based off of the 16-year-old rendition of the character from A Link to the Past. Also, the Koopalings are involved and… they were originally believed to be Bowser’s children, but still look like children, so… I’m gonna say they’re teenagers.

Akumako: “Natalie is allowed to talk about this shit, but she can’t write it or show it! Gotta keep them patriarchal pedophilic puritans pedophiles running VISA happy!”

Anyway, things open up on Bowser(Mythra), fully adjusted in his new body, dressing up basically a Bowsette outfit, stroking Zelda(Bowser Jr.)’s fully matured turtle boy dick, making her cum. Demoralized and crying, she is shown Bowser Jr.(Zelda) twerkin’ on the floor, and is told that she needs to fuck her body to get it back. Zelda(Boswer Jr.) chooses to believe in this body thief, and what follows is… just this utterly shameless escalation of wackadoo sexual antics. Something so wild, weird, and cartoonish that… it stops being porn and is just a spectacle

You’ve got a little turtle boy squelching out princess pussy juices. You have a clown car with piranha plant tentacles that nom up clothes nipples alike, while fucking just as good as any dick. And then you have a full on eight person gangbang, which should be just too much, too many people trying to get something in, but it really isn’t. Everybody gets a turn, everybody gets their fun, and while they get their not-so-little turtle penises tuckered out, they get reenergized and come back for more and more. All of which is excellently demonstrated across two single angle pages that just really do a great job of capturing the character of the scene, with cute little interactions between the characters. They’re just having so much fun~!

But it also does not forget the emotional core of this chapter. Showing Zelda(Bowser Jr.) lose her way as she discards her pride, embraces her sexual urges, and sees her once pristine body become a sexual object. And seeing Bowser Jr.(Zelda) becomes a queen of cum, withstanding and taking dick after dick, tentacle after tentacle, like a gosh darn pro, until… he just wants a break. Because unless you’re a certified Black Gal Bitch, you’re gonna be begging for some sort of release after being the one piece of ass in an eight person gangbang.

…Okay, I’ll concede that it’s narrative end is a teensy bit weak. But the sheer sight of seeing this all play out, going on and evolving over 28 pages, is as wild as it is… just fucking disgusting on, like, every level. It has character for days, oodles of personality, and escalates things to such an extreme that… I don’t know where things could go from here, unless the fifth installment is just a full-on Everyone is Here orgy. Which would be a certified Black Gal Bitch to draw.

Overall, what I like most about sWitch Time is its sheer dedication to its premise. It interjects some cool and creative ideas to the story of these swaps, and offers an attention to detail that is, quite frankly, surprising considering what this comic is meant to be. It started pretty plain before shooting up to the goldarn stars. It delivers on an idea I’ve been carrying with me for almost five years, and in a way that’s… beyond anything I could have imagined.

Akumako: “In conclusion, Natalie gives this comic nine turtles fucking a princess outta ten.”

Turtles… fucking… It shall never leave the palace…

Platinum Never Loses Its Luster… But It Can Lost Its Heart
(Hideki Kamiya Announces His Departure From PlatinumGames)

So, this is a story I doubt anybody would have expected to see. Announced this past Monday, Hideki Kamiya is leaving PlatinumGameson October 12, 2023. This was announced with the signature solemn JPG on somehow still relevant social media platform 𝕏, followed by a post from Kamiya himself. Kamiya claims this was a decision made with “a lot of consideration based on [his] own beliefs,” without addressing the real reason for his departure. However, that is pretty easy to intuit based on Platinum’s history over the past few years.

  • In January 2020, Tencent purchased an undisclosed portion of PlatinumGames, and though Platinum claimed that this did not change how the studio operated, I always find that defense to be bullcrap. 
  • In February 2020, Platinum announced they were shifting more toward the live service model, which was the antithesis of what they were known and beloved for. High quality, focused, and balanced single-player action games. 
  • Also in February 2020, Platinum announced they were working on a new title, Project G.G., which has not been shown or previewed in the past 3.5 years.

So… yeah. Either Kamiya clashed with the management, was not happy with the push toward live services, or something happened with Project G.G. Hell, maybe all three of those things happened! Which, combined with the fact that Kamiya was directing Scalebound, only for the title to be canceled after three years of development, makes it easy to see why Kamiya might want to depart from this studio. PlatinumGames has changed, Kamiya hasn’t been able to direct and launch a new game in over a decade. And after finishing The Wonderful One: After School Hero, Bayonetta 3, and Bayonetta Origins, it’s possible Kamiya decided to cut his losses and leave.

Looking back at these events, and remembering that Platinum made Babylon’s Fall, all makes me think that this might mark the true end of an era for PlatinumGames. While they are a studio filled with skilled developers, Kamiya was their most vocal and public-facing figure, often defining the studio, while serving as the vice president. I have no doubt that the ~360 people remaining at the studio will try to make the best games they are allowed to, but they may also fall victim to the same curse that has shattered many studios. Chasing profitable trends, pursuing business practices that lead to— almost objectively— worse art, and abandoning what made their titles unique in lieu of conforming to focus test approved slop. 

Platinum never loses its luster… but it can lose its heart.

Spin Through Time Yet Again
(Timespinner 2: Unwoven Dream Announced)

Aw, heck yeah! 2018’s Timespinner was… probably one of my favorite games from the past generation. In the grand legacy of Metroidvanias that came out that generation, Timespinner was the one that most succinctly captured what I wanted from the genre. It took heavy inspiration from the Castlevania end of things, and delivered a consistently fun experience from start to finish, complete with downright gorgeous production values. I actually would love to revisit it, and finally play that gosh darn new game+ mode, but somebody has novels to write!

As such, I was happy to see an announcement for Timespinner 2: Unwoven Dream to pop up in my email. A title that looks to be… another Timespinner game. One boasting the same gorgeous pixel art, classy aesthetic, and heavy story focus as the first game, while evolving on its already great gameplay. So, pretty much everything I would want from a sequel, while still being ‘more evolutionary than revolutionary.’

Is that a problem in my book? Heck no! Though, I am going to need to wait a while to even check this game out, as lead developer Bodie Lee stated “the game still has a couple years of development to go.” This makes sense, as developer Lunar Ray Games is pretty much just one full-time developer, along with a handful of contractors. People who, realistically, only do a few months of work throughout the entire production cycle.

Yeah, you want to know why independent games take so long to make, and why their credits imply they have a staff of dozens? That’s why. And considering Timespinner probably only sold… 200,000 units, earning maybe $2,000,000 in sales revenue, I don’t think you can do much more than that.

Ransomware Warriors Strike Again!
(Sony Got Hacked, Like It’s 2011 Part II)

…Wow. Wasn’t I just referencing ransomware attacks last week? And now, we have another high profile ransomware attack in the form of, claiming to have “compromised all of Sony[‘s] systems.” They claim Sony was not willing to pay them for the data, offered to sell it to any interested party, and if no buyer was found, they promised to publish the data by Thursday, September 28.

Now, ransomware attacks… are terrible, cruel, and an awful thing to do to a person. I think that most publicly traded corporations are too heavily shrouded in secrets, and should be more public with their operations and going-ons. And I think that it’s cool when video game companies leak confidential information, offering game likers a glimpse into future plans, and games that never were.

…Sadly, I did not see anything about this story crop up. So either the leak was delayed, and I got too trigger happy with my reporting, or Sony stopped this from happening.

Bring back the Good PlayStation!
(Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO, Jim Ryan, To Retire in March 2024)

In the circles I fly in (which are getting smaller as I grow more jaded, old, and radical) Jim Ryan has held the position as ‘the man responsible for everything bad at modern PlayStation.’ Namely, their move away toward their legacy, Japanese roots, and classic IP in favor of… just being an American games company. It was under Ryan’s rule that Japan Studios—arguably the best and most prolific defunct studio in all of gaming, was shuttered. It was under his watch that Sony started moving far away from the Japanese market with the start of the PS5 generation. He infamously did not see the appeal in bringing back Sony’s PS1 or PS2 back catalog to the PS5. …Before Sony offered a pittance of their offerings with PlayStation Plus. 

Honestly, looking at Sony’s release history the past four years is… upsetting. Of 20 console games they developed and published, 8 are serious cinematic story-driven experiences, 4 are baseball games, 2 are multiplayer games that never really took off, and half of the remainder were just launch titles. …Also, they only have one significant first-party title this year, which is really weird.

It’s tempting to look at this current state of affairs and blame Jim Ryan… but he’s just the CEO. Sony is a big company, and has a lot of people going in different directions. While I dislike Sony’s current trajectory as much as someone who never touched a PS2 but owns two Vitas could… this shift has been a decade in the making. Sony expected the PS3 to be the next PS2, but it wound up being a massive mistake that struggled to sell in any nation, especially their homeland of Japan. 

Developers too small and too intimidated by the PS3 much preferred the easier development environments and lower staff requirements of the DS and PSP. While the Japanese audience, which was shifting away from consoles because… of a lot of reasons. Reasons like how Japanese people spend so much time on transit and not at home that handhelds just made more sense for a wide variety of people. You know, stuff more complicated than how ‘phones and handhelds became good enough.’

This caused fewer Japanese developers to make fewer games for the PS3, saw fewer PS3 sales in Japan, and saw Sony pushing more and more into the western market. Then, at the start of the PS4 generation, Sony was putting the western market first, and relegated most of their quirky Japanese stuff to the PS Vita… which they just stopped supporting after Freedom Wars

For the first 20 years of its life, PlayStation had personality for days, and every system had its own clear identity. But the PlayStation 4… is just bereft of any real personality. For the 8th generation, it was the de facto game system, but it was also released in an era where multi-platform releases were exceedingly common. Most big games on the system were brought over to Xbox One and/or PC. Many of those that launched as exclusives were eventually brought over to other systems. And while there are a good chunk still exclusive to the console… they all feel like games that came out on PS4, rather than PS4 games. Bloodborne’s a PS4 game— arguably the PS4 game— but people want to play it on anything other than a PS4.

…Please PlayStation-sama, please do PC ports of Ratchet & Clank (2016), Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, The Last of Us: Part II, Bloodborne, Gravity Rush Remastered, Gravity Rush 2, Shadow of the Colossus (2018), Tearaway Unfolded, and Dreams. Afterwards… yeah, I think that covers everything super high profile that hasn’t already been ported. Do that, keep on doing these 2 year delayed PC ports, and you can continue being the top dawg over Xbox.

Wait, was I supposed to talk about this Jim Ryan fellow? Yeah, he’s stepping down as CEO and president. Another high-ranking executive, Hiroki Totoki, will be the interim CEO, and I doubt much is going to change as a result of this. Whoever takes the reins will likely follow Ryan’s example, do what’s successful, and continue the trend that Sony has been on for over a decade. Nobody is going to save PlayStation, and now that the brand is approaching its 30th anniversary, there’s no way it’s going to be allowed to be as bold or striking as it once was. There is too much money involved here for creativity, and any deviance or throwback to the old ways could go against what more modern fans have grown to expect.

Old PlayStation is dead. Nu-PlayStation is just a better Xbox. And if you want to reclaim the magic of this lost era…. just download DuckStation and hit up a ROM site. Or buy a MiSTer FPGA Pre-build instead of a new console. I am not a fan of buying more electronics than necessary, and don’t care about accurate emulation, but some people are real gizmo-heads.

(Epic Sells Bandcamp and Lays Off 900 Employees)

One of the more heart wrenching acquisitions of the past few years has been the formation of Bandcamp, an Epic company. Just the very idea of a platform of independent artists being owned by a company like Epic is gross to me. Fortunately, after just 19 months, this nasty arrangement has come to an end. Hoo-fookin-ray!

However, Bandcamp didn’t just buy their independence or anything, they got sold to another huge corporation. Songtradr, who, based on their name, are a modern ‘poor literacy is kewl’ tech company who take the creations of artists and sell them to other companies. Either as a perpetual royalty-free license, or as a subscription service. Are their prices good? Eh… They want $750 for a song in a video game and $20 for a song in a YouTube video. Which is some weird math if you ask me. …But apparently that’s actually not a bad rate for a video game. …So that’s why so many games just pay a composer.

Songtradr has gone on an acquisition/growth spree over the past few years, with Bandcamp being just the latest music platform to fall under their control. As such, while I don’t have any reason to dislike them specifically… I have grown incredibly bitter toward companies who exhibit their approach to growth, and there are only a handful of companies who I would WANT to own Bandcamp. Namely any company who is playing the game of treating workers well, and not chasing the pursuit of capital above all others. Which is becoming a rarity in this modern era…

An era where I can look at a company raising the price of their primary monetization source by ~16% and laying off 16% of their staff in the same 24 hour period and think: “Yeah, that makes sense.” 2023 is the year of subscription service price hikes and layoffs. All because layoffs reduce expenses, and price hikes increase revenue. That translates to higher profits, and after the pandemic screws up the perpetual growth of corporations, they want to show better financials. Which is the actual functional and legal purpose of publicly traded corporations. To service shareholders and help them make money. 

Publicly traded corporations do not exist to provide a good or service to better the world or their community. At least not in the real world. They just exist to make money. And the same is also true for private equity firms, firms owned by venture capital groups, and any company who sought growth through the interjection of capital. The only good companies are private entities owned by the people who work for them. But instead of co-ops, S-corps, partnerships, and leaving everything too big to a governmental entity, we have capitalists. People who own obscene amounts of wealth, harness frightening amounts of power, yet are allowed to operate with virtually no responsibility beyond… paying taxes in accordance to laws that they, effectively, write.

Less pessimistically, a lot of tech companies lay off people so they don’t need to pay bonuses, raises, or deal with the ‘wrong people’ vying for seniority after working at a firm for… 3 to 7 years. And even if companies are fully profitable, they view inflation as a prime opportunity to make even more cash. I mean, if you are charging more for a service and the operating costs are the same, then you know what that is? Free money! And you know what corporations can’t get at banks anymore? Free money!

Does this all suck? Yes. Is there a solution? Yeah, of course there is. Find the people with power… and take their power from their cold dead hands. No matter how powerful someone is… a minute with a brick, 10 seconds with a knife, and one second with a gun is all one needs to kill them. Humans are weak, fragile, and all it takes for a revolution to happen… is a lot of people with three things. A willingness to die, a drive to kill, and a vision for a better world. 

Akumako: “Yeah, Natalie’s to-ta-lly over the non-violence schtick, and she is just telling people to start killing billionaires at this point.”

I mean, what else does ‘eat the rich’ mean other than nom up a jugular and drink their blood? I just say the quiet part out loud because subtlety is for cowards and dicks are made for murder!

Ownership vs. Possession
(Natalie Complains About People Crying About ‘The Death of Ownership’)

An argument I regularly see when people talk about how physical media production is slowing down is how this represents the ‘death of ownership.’ Which is… something I’ve heard hundreds of times, and at this point… it just annoys me. Because of the particular fixation on ownership these people hold. 

Ownership is a legal concept, and it is defined by those with the means and the power to make laws. It refers to those who have the title, license, and publicly/governmentally recognized right to claim possession of something. Whether it be personal property, real property, or human property. From an early age, people are taught to value ownership, to view thieves as malicious, callous, or irredeemable, as they take things that don’t belong to them.

In the physical world, it is very difficult to argue against this rule. If someone works for something, if someone uses their money to buy it, it is theirs. That is right, that is just, that is how it should work. It makes sense with homes, food, kitchen utensils, furniture, stocks, cash, and most things. …But when it comes to physical media, this concept gets less clear-cut. 

What exactly is a DVD, a Blu-ray, or a CD? You might say it’s a movie, a game, or an album, but what does that actually mean? What exactly are these things? Well, they are a disc that grants the owner two things. A digital file burned onto a storage device that can be accessed via certain electronic devices. Whether that be a DVD player, gaming system, or desktop computer. And a transferable license to the media stored on this device for recreational purposes, with arbitrary limits imposed to how it can and should be used, which vary by nation, licensor, medium, and general circumstance. Owning a DVD of 1993’s Jurassic Park grants one a license to watch the film as many times as they like, and watch it with a small group of people. But it does not give them the ability to broadcast this via an online livestream to an audience of… 500 people. 

That is what owning a piece of disc-based media means. You have access to a file, and a license to enjoy it. The license is a type of right, but the license is also limited by laws and whatever the rightsholder chooses to allow. However, regardless of what the law says, the digital files on physical media can be ripped, they can be backed up, they can be copied infinitely. Their security can be cracked, and they can be distributed across a network of any scale or size. 

This in turn raises a dilemma, where it is possible for one to obtain a digital file they do not have a license to own. …But regardless of whether or not they legally own it, they possess it. They have it. And they can use it. This may be illegal, it may be subject to severe consequences in some parts of the world. But that does not change the fact that someone can use it as if they owned the digital file on a disc, and unless someone checks to confirm they own the license… does it even matter?

Does ownership even matter when people can just download it for free off the internet and have it stored on their drive? Just because something is on the storage device of a computer someone owns does not mean that they have any claim of legal ownership over those digital files. Often, it’s because it is impossible to claim ownership of these files, as there is no way to obtain a license or legal right. But no matter what rights one has over these files… they still possess them. They can realistically reap all the benefits of owning them, with no consequences. And so long as they only use these files for their personal enjoyment, then the chances of them ever facing negative repercussions for their actions are basically nil. 

Yes, there are instances of legal cases where people were punished for the illegal distribution of these files. …But most of the time, there are no consequences for this. There is no security system monitoring someone to see if they download Valensia II from a shady Russian site rather than buy it from Apple Music. In the overwhelming majority of instances, there is no functional difference between possession and ownership of digital files. And if there is, it’s because the creator included some form of DRM with the file.

Ownership… is not what really matters. Possession is what matters. So long as one can possess movies, can possess music, and can possess video games, and run these files… then that’s good enough for me.

Progress Report 2023-10-01

2023-09-24: I was really messed up from my COVID booster, so I didn’t wind up writing anything today, and slept for 12 hours, instead of my usual 6.3 hours.
2023-09-25: My work schedule was weird today, and I got distracted by writing 2,920 words for this week’s Rundown, so this marked the third day in a row with no progress.
2023-09-26: Wrote about 3,500 words for the X DiVE review, and spent an hour making images for review.
2023-09-27: Wrote about 2,000 words for the X DiVE review and completed the initial draft of 10,600 words. I got busy doing crypto stuff starting at 18:30 and didn’t get back to writing until 23:30, so there went my evening!
2023-09-28: I focused on this week’s Rundown, writing segmented and doing the editing on what I drafted. By the time I was done, it was 2:00.
2023-09-29: I finished editing the X DiVE review and added images. Review is 100% done, and since it was late, I got started on next week’s Rundown.
2023-09-30: I got back into the world of VD 2.0, and finally wrote the outline for chapter 6-10. Due to the almost requisite 30 to 60 minutes of discussing the new home with my mother, progress was fairly slow.

Verde’s Doohickey 2.0: Sensational Summer Romp Progress Report:

Current Word Count: 107,231
Estimated Word Count: ~600,000 
Total Chapters: 75
Chapters Outlined: 42
Chapters Drafted: 14
Chapters Edited: 0
Header Images Made: 0
Days Until Deadline: 241

Work resumed on this novel this past Saturday, and I’m going full steam ahead until the next three chapters of part 1 are done. Which will probably be 40,000 words of writing with where my mind is these days…

Mega Man X DiVE Offline Review Progress Report:

I decided not to include a bonus review of Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, and since the review is done, I’m going to bump it up to October 11th. Why would I sit on this review for a full week? Because I want to give the illusion that I’m doing things besides Rundowns!

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. skillet

    Aw man, that’s a LOT of good swaps on that spreadsheet. Probably just my personal bias, but I’m especially fond of all those involving Zelda characters. Now I’m really upset that (most of) these don’t exist in some actual story/artwork. All I can do is hope sWitch Time steals some of this, but I’d be really surprised if they ever tackled such swaps as Sheik x Incineroar.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      Oh gosh. I didn’t even really look over some of the swaps before I shared the spreadsheet, but I remember spending HOURS going back and forward with these swap ideas. Looking back, this would have been a good project to collaborate on with other TSF writers… but I’m not really in community with other writers, and the time for this has arguably passed. I mean, Smash is always relevant to some degree, as it’s so big, but it would not have the same spark as it once did if something like this followed up the Bowsette trend during 2018 or early 2019.

      1. skillet

        I agree that the time for a big collab based on this has unfortunately passed, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep it in mind in case a creator I like is ever open to requests, or if I ever garner up the courage to tackle a piece of it myself.

        1. Natalie Neumann

          If you want to do anything with these ideas, be my guest. These are just old concepts, and the only bit of ‘writing’ I did was a few notes.

  2. Tasnica

    Always neat to see the classic “Ignorance Is Bliss” referenced! Still can hardly believe that it was actually licensed by Nintendo over 30 years ago.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      YES! I love it when people find the jokes I hide in links! White Knuckle Scorin’ is such a weird relic of an era where Nintendo of America was happy-go-lucky with their licenses. It was an album made to promote literacy, and rather than just commissioning a bunch of songs, they commissioned ONE song, and then licensed a few seemingly random tracks that only vaguely tie in with the story.

      1. Tasnica

        It really does have a wild backstory. The animated version is also incredibly catchy, though now I’m probably going to think of sWitch Time whenever I watch it…

        1. Natalie Neumann

          Well… that wasn’t the intended connection. I just think of that song whenever I see Bowser show up in something. He’s the musical turtle man who wants to kill the dinosaurs and hates books!